Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Salix monticola
SPECIES: Salix monticola
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Esser, L. 1992. Salix monticola. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
Salix padophylla Rydb.
Salix pseudomonticola Ball.
Salix pseudomonticola var. padophylla (Rydb.) Ball.
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
false mountain willow
The scientific name for mountain willow is Salix monticola
Bebb ex. Coult. There are no varieties or forms. Hybridization
and introgression with Barclay willow (S. barclayi), Mackenzie willow
(S. rigida), and low blueberry willow (S. myrtillifolia) may occur
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Salix monticola
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Mountain willow occurs in the Rocky Mountain region from Alaska to
central Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and eastern Utah [3,15].
Scattered populations occur in the Pacific Northwest, Montana, Wyoming
and the Black Hills of South Dakota . In Canada, mountain willow
occurs from British Columbia eastward to Labrador and Quebec and
northward to Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories [5,15,38].
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
AK AZ CO ID MT NM OR SD UT WA
WY AB BC NT ON PQ SK YT
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
15 Black Hills Uplift
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K013 Cedar - hemlock - pine forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine - Douglas-fir forest
K021 Southwestern spruce - fir forest
K052 Alpine meadows and barren
SAF COVER TYPES :
201 White spruce
202 White spruce - paper birch
203 Balsam poplar
204 Black spruce
206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
208 Whitebark pine
210 Interior Douglas-fir
215 Western white pine
216 Blue spruce
218 Lodgepole pine
235 Cottonwood - willow
251 White spruce - aspen
252 Paper birch
253 Black spruce - white spruce
254 Black spruce - paper birch
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Mountain willow is a common thicket-forming shrub of streambanks and
moist slopes in the arctic and forested regions of Alaska and the Yukon
[3,14]. Mountain willow can also be found in floodplain thickets on
rivers and grows on recent alluvial deposits characterized by exposed
mineral soil, low moisture content, and absence of permafrost .
Mountain willow is best adapted to a cool, moist northern environment
but is also found in warmer, more temperate climates. In these more
temperate climates, mountain willow occurs at middle to rather high
elevations (6,000 to 10,500 feet [1,800-3,100 m]) in the mountains along
riparian zones [14,15,36]. Published classifications describing
mountain willow as a dominant or codominant in community types are
Classification of the riparian vegetation of the montane and subalpine
zones in western Colorado .
Riparian community type classification of Utah and southeastern Idaho .
SPECIES: Salix monticola
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Wildlife: Mountain willow is an important food source for moose, deer
small mammals, beaver, snowshoe hares, songbirds, and game birds,
including ruffed grouse and ptarmigan [14,26,37]. Mountain willow from
Wyoming to Alaska provides browse for moose . Honey bees use the
pollen and nectar of mountain willow as a food source for brood rearing
Livestock: In south-central Colorado, browse suitability ratings for
mountain willow are listed as high for elk and cattle and moderate for
deer and sheep . Mountain willow is an important source of browse
for cattle in riparian areas .
Most willows are palatable to livestock and big game . Palatability
of willows increases as the growing season advances .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
Mountain willow characteristically produces dense thickets along streams
and rivers, which provide thermal and hiding cover for elk, deer, and
moose. Branches are used by beavers in the construction of dams and
lodges . Mountain willow also provides shade and cover for fish
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Mountain willow is useful in stabilizing streambanks and providing
erosion control on severely disturbed sites . Mountain willow is an
important invader of sites disturbed by man or natural phenomena because
of its ability to produce roots and root crown shoots, which provide for
quick recovery . A study was conducted at Sheep Creek near Fort
Collins, Colorado, a typical western headwater stream. By the late
1940's, the riparian zone bordering Sheep Creek was practically denuded
of vegetation. Three exclosures were built to improve fisheries
habitat. Limited grazing was allowed in the exclosures for 7 of the 30
years the exclosures existed. Mountain willow cover averaged eight and
a half times greater in the ungrazed exclosures than in adjacent grazed
areas . Mountain willow was unable to reach its maximum height on
streambanks that had been grazed even though grazing pressure in the
Sheep Creek Allotment had been reduced by two-thirds over a time span of
50 years. It is apparent that some rest from grazing is needed so
healthy stands of willow can establish in riparian zones .
The utilization of willows for riparian habitat improvement is
widespread because they are easy to obtain, inexpensive, usually locally
acclimated, and provide a good benefit/cost ratio .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Willow establishment along riparian zones is an effective management
tool that yields positive benefits to a number of fish and wildlife
species, as well as providing necessary protection to the stream
environment . Heavy livestock utilization of riparian areas can
lead to severe degradation unless managed properly .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Salix monticola
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Mountain willow is a native, erect shrub 3 to 12 feet (1.5-4 m) tall,
and usually forming dense clumps [3,5]. The trunk of mountain willow is
smooth or slightly cracked. The wood is fine-grained and soft and has
no sapwood-heartwood line . Mountain willow has a remarkable
characteristic of plasticity; its growth form adapts readily to a wide
variety of habitats . Branching habit and foliage characteristics
vary greatly depending on site conditions .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual reproduction: Mountain willow is dioecious. The fruit is
contained in a dehiscent capsule that releases many seeds that are then
dispersed by wind or water. Optimum seed production occurs between 2
and 10 years . The flowers of mountain willow are mostly, but not
exclusively, insect-pollinated. Bees are the chief pollinating agents
[10,14]. The seeds of mountain willow are short-lived and germinate
immediately on moist mineral substrates with high relative humidity and
in full sunlight . Germination is inhibited on sites with a
continuous cover of tree litter [7,14]. Seed germination occurs over a
broad temperature range, from 41 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (5-25 deg C).
This appears to be a compensatory mechanism because of the short seed
life [7,41]. This adaptation to a wide range of temperatures is
particularly important in interior Alaska, where surface soil
temperatures may vary over a relatively wide range .
Vegetative reproduction: Mountain willow sprouts readily from the root
crown or basal stem [14,32]. It will root from stem cuttings or root
fragments on moist to wet sites. Mountain willow will sprout vigorously
following cutting regardless of cutting season, but vigor is more
pronounced if cutting occurs during the dormant season [7,14]. Mountain
willow exhibits early growth from both seed and sprout; but vegetative
reproduction of willow was six times greater than willow growing from
seed on a 6-year-old burn in Alaska .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
In Alaska and northern Canada, mountain willow is found in wet areas
such as heaths, riverbeds, and streams . In interior Alaska,
mountain willow occurs in glacial drift and on river floodplains that
are nutrient-rich . The best growth occurs in moist, alluvial
bottomlands, but mountain willow can be found growing on a variety of
substrates. In the Intermountain region, mountain willow is best
represented in riparian communities within the middle-to upper-elevation
forest of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) and in the forest-alpine
transition zone above the limit of contiguous forests, dominated by
whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) .
Soils: Mountain willow is usually found on moist sandy or gravelly
soils but is adaptable to a wide variety of soils . It will
tolerate moderately alkaline soils but does poorly in extremely acidic
of alkaline conditions. The general pH range for willows is 5.5 to 7.5
. Growth of mountain willow is severely reduced when water levels
are maintained at or above the root collar for extended periods .
Mountain willow is also shade intolerant and grows best in full sunlight
Plant associates: Mountain willow is commonly associated with Booth
willow (Salix boothii), Geyer willow (Salix geyeriana), Drummond willow
(Salix drummondiana), alder (Alnus spp.), river birch (Betula
occidentalis), lichens (Cladonia spp.), bluejoint reedgrass
(Calamagrostis canadensis), beaked sedge (Carex rostrata), water sedge
(Carex aquatilis), rush (Juncus spp.), bluegrass (Poa spp.), and mosses
(Polytrichum spp.) [4,16,29].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Mountain willow occurs in initial to early seral plant communities along
river systems of interior Alaska. Mountain willow is a pioneer species
that becomes established after disturbances such as fire, logging or
recent alluvial deposits resulting from floodplain processes .
Mountain willow has low shade tolerance and therefore loses dominance on
sites that are heavily forested or succeeded by more shade-tolerant
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Mountain willow flowers in May, before the leaves appear, through July
. The fruit ripens soon after flowering, followed by seed dispersal
in early to midsummer [14,41].
SPECIES: Salix monticola
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Mountain willow is a fire-tolerant shrub that sprouts readily from from
the root and root crown after being top-killed by fire [19,23]. It
produces numerous, minute seeds that are dispersed by wind, and which
are important in colonizing recently burned areas . Willows that
invade by seeding-in have a slower growth rate than those that sprout
from the root crown after fire .
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Salix monticola
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Mountain willow is a fire-tolerant shrub that has a rapid postfire
regeneration period . It will sprout readily from the root or root
crown after being top-killed by fire. Frequent fires can eventually
deplete carbohydrate levels below minimums necessary for growth and
reflowering and eliminate mountain willow .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Mountain willow is frequently found in early successional stage plant
communities after fires because of its ability to sprout vigorously from
the root-crown or roots . Mountain willow seeds need a
nutrient-rich mineral seedbed to germinate. The chance of mountain
willow establishing after a fire lessens as available mineral soil
seedbeds become occupied by faster growing herbaceous species and mosses
. Mountain willow is greatly favored by fire in most habitats and it
can become the dominant cover in areas that have a history of frequent
natural fire . Fire is not favored in lowland spruce stands in
Alaska because of the prevalent green understory, mainly willows .
Fire severity affects the mode of willow postfire recovery. Following
light-severity fires most willows recover quickly, sending up new shoots
from undamaged root crowns. Few if any seedlings establish following
this type of fire because the partially consumed organic soil layers
comprise an unfavorable seedbed. Following severe fire, however, the
primary mode of recovery is seedling establishment. Severe fires that
burn into organic soils kill willows, but expose mineral soils which
provide excellent seedbeds .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Prescribed fire is widely used as a wildlife management tool to
rejuvenate decadent willow stands and stimulate sprouting . Early
seral communities created by fire can increase the carrying capacity of
winter range for moose in interior Alaska . Fires increase the
amount of browse available for herbivores because browse species such as
willow proliferate in early postfire succession . Recurring fires
within some parts of the boreal forest have allowed aspen and willow to
replace coniferous forests . The tendency of willows to expand
quickly following fires and other disturbances and to form dense
thickets inhibits natural regeneration of conifers. Prescribed burning
can reduce initial competition from willow in areas to be planted with
cultivated species .
SPECIES: Salix monticola
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